Composting help and Timothy hay

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Just started a barrel (55 gallon plastic which I drilled holes in on 4 sides). So grandson decides he wants to help fill it. He shoveled some spent sunflowers seeds into it. Not sure if they will break down so I stopped him after about 3 or 4 gallons worth. The we went through the huge pile of timothy hay which is from my guinea pigs house. Grand daughter threw a whole peeled banana in too since she said her tummy was full. The barrel is 2/3 full already! So this wasn't a good start. What's the ratio for starting a barrel? I get a lot of timothy hay as I change the piggies house out every 3 days and we use a C&C cage system with the hay for litter, bedding and munching. I use about 96 ounces a week. I used to burn the hay weekly but now I figure I should use it. The wild rabbits have been at the pile so I'll leave part there for them too. I wanted to see about mixing some hay into the soil for my container plants too. Thanks for any help. I think I'm a bit overwhelmed.
  5 answers
  • Bonny McDaniel Bonny McDaniel on Apr 08, 2015
    You say 'hay' but I'm not sure whether you are talking about alfalfa, wheat, oat, etc. It does make a difference as some of the ones like the stalks of wheat, oat, etc. actually rob nitrogen from compost and soil, in order to decompose. Alfalfa will add to your soil although just the bare stalks, sans leaves, won't be of great benefit except to add to the bulk for a soil amendment. I usually pile items like this next to my compost bin and add them a (fairly thin) layer at a time along with all the kitchen scraps (sans any meat items), other plants (without any seeds), etc. Since I have a very tight clay soil, I also add a small amount of soil and, sometimes, some finished compost to the layers...leaves, and rabbit manure, also.

    • Jodi Jodi on Apr 08, 2015
      @Bonny McDaniel Timothy hay. It's what adult bunnies and guinea pigs munch on but also used for bedding. Alfalfa is too something for them once they hit a year old. Ok, I understand what you are saying. I should just pile it up where I have been and add it to the mix rather than use so much of it! I actually like that the wild bunnies are using it too. There's so much unused Timothy hay left when I dump the pads out every 3 days! I always dump the leftover hard food too. They love their fruits and veggies more than ready made foods. It's good it doesn't go to waste. I'll dump about 2/3 of this barrel out then and just add that to my containers and maybe till some in the new gardens. Thanks!

  • Bonny McDaniel Bonny McDaniel on Apr 08, 2015
    I would put very little of the timothy hay stems into this compost barrel. If you have a spot to compost leaves and heavier items, I would layer it with that. It just takes a long time for that to break down although the very fine stems might work OK...just my suggestions and years of composting, especially when I had horses, goats, etc. I compost now, but just a small area although I hope to make a two-bin unit out of pallets.

    • Jodi Jodi on Apr 08, 2015
      @Bonny McDaniel Thanks! I just called my husband after reading this and he said this weekend he'd build a bin for heavier items like the hay. We have several pallets and lots of chicken wire and metal fence posts so I'm sure he'll come up with a good plan! We can call that our slow cooker and then concentrate on food mostly in the barrel. I can clean the fence rows which are full of last fall's leaves still. Might add some of that to the barrel. I'm so excited not to have to buy compost anymore!!! I wonder if I can train the 13 squirrels that live on our yard to poop in one spot!

  • Bonny McDaniel Bonny McDaniel on Apr 08, 2015
    That solution will be the best of both worlds! Yes, put some of the dry leaves and the kitchen scraps (veggie, fruit, coffee grounds, even paper towels) into the barrel along with a small amount of the hay/stems, a little bit of soil, etc. and you will have a nice amount of rich compost in a short while. Don't let it get too soggy. Sometimes the kitchen scraps are enough moisture but you might have to add a little bit of water. The 'slow cook' will probably need more moisture and might even need a cover (black plastic works well) over it in rainy weather...good luck! I received some iris from a lady two years ago and last summer her husband saw my photos of the lovely blooms and remarked that their iris didn 't look that good. I said "But you don't have my compost in your flower bed!" and that, I'm sure, was the difference.

    • Jodi Jodi on Apr 08, 2015
      @Bonny McDaniel Thanks again Bonny! The information you provided was perfect!

  • Bonny McDaniel Bonny McDaniel on Apr 08, 2015
    You are most welcome. Here's another helpful hint. If you must buy some commercial compost before yours is ready, put a couple of shovel fulls into that barrel...it will hasten the process of breaking down your raw materials. You could also use that method in the future for both the big pile and the barrel...always save back some finished compost and use it as a 'starter' in your new compost.

    • Jodi Jodi on Apr 08, 2015
      @Bonny McDaniel Ah great idea! Like a bread starter :) Thanks again Bonny!!!!

  • Bonny McDaniel Bonny McDaniel on Apr 09, 2015
    Funny, I was thinking that when I told you about it! Also, if you have a leaf blower that also vacuums and chops up the leaves, that is better than putting in whole leaves.

    • Jodi Jodi on Apr 09, 2015
      @Bonny McDaniel I know we have one that is so loud it gives me a headache! I'll have to ask hubby when he is home. I think someone gave it to us but we usually just mulch the leaves with the mower. We just have fruit and nut trees that lose leaves.